It’s nice to wake up among friends – so many hikers all in one spot. They’re all in for a zero today, relaxing among the exuberant children and ever-patient adults of Sprinkles’s family, but me, I’ve got miles to do. I’m waiting on Outro in particular – she, Wolf, U-Turn, and Evac should be pulling in this afternoon, and I’m excited both to get the whole band back together and to get started on our JMT/Half Dome side quest with Yoda. Should be a good time.
In the meantime, I busy myself with packing up at the Backpacker’s Campground, scavenging off the remnants of breakfast and french press coffee in the family camp.
Once it opens for realsies, I’m off to get my package from the post office. I want to be grouchy with the postmen for yesterday, but they’re all really nice and accommodating, and my haul – more than six days’ worth of food – is both weighty and appetizing. I have no idea how I’m going to fit it all in my bear can, so I make do by sending some stuff ahead and cramming the rest in as a steady tide of hikers flows in and out of the area.
Yoda’s not feeling well – her hip’s apparently out of whack, so she makes the decision not to hike down into the Valley with me. Even though she wants to hike Half Dome, she doesn’t want to get injured on a side trail even more. Better to rest up. I’m a bit disappointed, but Outro’s still in the mix maybe. Maybe.
As the time ticks on towards the afternoon, I get more and more disheartened. Outro’s probably not going to want to hike in and then immediately hike out, so I’m probably on my own for this side quest.
But then, friends! Wonderfully delicious friends!
I linger as long as I can among them, am embarrassed to even bring up the side quest to Outro because everyone’s having such a good time, but I have to. Her face falls when I mention it. Of course, of course. I kind of figured. No problem. I’m disappointed, sure, but not because she’s not coming – I get grouchy with myself for wanting to go instead of hanging out with my people. I do want to finish the JMT, though, and I still want to climb Half Dome for sunrise, so I should bounce sooner rather than later.
So at 1:30, it’s winding through the campground to pick up the JMT, and off and up towards Cathedral Lakes.
I’m pretty happy as I roll along. I’m making good time; the tread is nice, like all JMT tread, and well-populated, like all JMT tread.
There are all these crazy rock formations along the way – nothing as spectacular as we’ve seen, but definitely a warmup for all the JMT hikers headed south. I mostly entertain myself my trying to move faster, quick quick around all this up that isn’t supposed to be there.
There are a ton of hikers at first, headed in both directions; once I hit Cathedral Lakes, they start to thin out, and by the time I hit Cathedral Pass, they’re pretty much gone. Feels nice to be alone for a moment.
Then it’s a bit of down before some more up, up, and then flattening out to the Sunrise Trail Camp. On the way, there’s a bit of an interesting vantage point:
Then a little more up and, finally, some down.
Just after some lovely camp spots, I pass JMT hikers Chase and Tanner, out on their first day. They’re doing quite well, but hoping there are spaces ahead, and I’m happy to inform them there are. As for myself, I’m trying to get just a bit further before night falls.
So right around sunset is, of course, when I run into a huge swathe of dead trees.
Dead trees make me nervous – sure, there’s no wind right now, but who knows what’ll happen in the night, and I’d rather not get smooshed. Nope. No sir. So I’m stuck wandering through until I either find a clearing or some live trees.
But I keep walking, and there isn’t much in the way of campspots. Views of Half Dome and my tomorrow target, yes. Campspots, no. But at least the moon is here to keep me company.
The moonshadows of the trees are playing on the ground; I scatter them with my headlamp as it gets darker and darker. I’m maybe less nervous than I should be, cocksure that the popularity of the JMT, particularly this close to Yosemite Valley, is going to mean a minimum of mountain lions. I’m still worried about all the dead trees, though, and it’s not until I reach the edge of the live trees that I’m content to start looking for a campsite.
It’s 9 or so when I find a wee little unmarked side trail going up a hill, and I know what that means: campspots. And what joy, there are other people there! I say hello and chat with a nice woman through the walls of her tent, decide to cowboy camp to facilitate getting out at 4am – I should be about 7/10ths short of the Half Dome side trail, which leads about 2 miles preeeetty much straight up to the top. I’m about 80 percent sure that I know where I am, and I settle in right around 10 – sure, that only means 5 hours of sleep, but I’ll have time to nap later in the day tomorrow. I settle in, and watch the stars singing in the milky way until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer.
Start: 942.5 • End: 942.5 • Day: 15.7 on the JMT, probably
Notable Accomplishments: Tore myself away from my friends • 16-ish miles after 1:30 • Set up for Half Dome in the morning